Harvest roundup: Under starters’ orders

Combine drivers will be in the starting blocks this weekend, with many farmers expecting to get harvest proper under way in the next few days.

Although bits and pieces of winter barley and rapeseed have been cut, many farmers are still waiting for crops to ripen.

In Kent, harvest was still at least a week away at Court Lodge, Aldington, and Martin Boulden was patiently waiting for spring barley and rapeseed.

“We don’t have any winter barley – we redrilled it with spring barley instead,” he said. “That’s still green so will be two to three weeks away.”

Although one neighbour had combined some winter barley, the rest of Romney Marsh was relatively untouched. “You’d think it was the end of June, not the middle of August – everything’s just so green.”

But it was a different story in Cornwall, where contractor John Moss had two combines out today (2 August) near Saltash, and had already cut 182ha of winter barley and oilseed rape for customers.

“We’ve had a good start – the winter barley has exceeded all expectations, given that in April we weren’t expecting any yield at all,” he said.

Cassia averaged 8.23t/ha over a weighbridge – a good 2.5t/ha more than expected. “We were flabbergasted. And the bushel weight was 70kg/hl, which just shows what a bit of sunshine will do.”

Winter barley yields and quality were looking good across the country, although many fields suffered over the wet winter, said Agrii agronomist David Neale.

Yields had been very field-dependent, so while the average was quite pleasing so far, that hid a wide variation between fields and farms.

But the big unknown was oilseed rape, he added. “Maturity is extremely variable, so farmers need to look out for red and green seeds. It’s going to be a bit of balancing act.”

In County Durham, Michael Manners was keen to get on spraying oilseed rape at Conicliffe Grange, Staindrop, but was having to wait for it to ripen.

“It’s very frustrating – I sprayed one field off on Wednesday, looked at the rest and walked away,” he said.

“It’s so variable, it’s a nightmare. But it’s high erucic acid rape so we dare not get it wrong, as it would be worthless.”

Further north in Scotland, Adrian Ivory had sprayed off his winter barley at Strathisla Farms, Meigle, Perthshire, and planned to start combining on Tuesday next week.

“It looks fine, but you never know until you get into it,” he said. “There’s very little cut in the area – I think most people will be into the barley next week.”

Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

View course

Using contractors saves you time and money. Now you can book, track and pay all in one place. Register for early access today.

Find out more
See more